Device Friendly Classrooms

Conestoga students bring, on average, 2.5 devices onto campus. They may come equipped with laptops, smartphones and smartwatches. Bringing these into classroom experiences can advance their understanding, facilitate collaboration and productivity, and enhance preparedness for a modern working context.

Set up for success by trying a few of these tips, compiled from Conestoga faculty in preparation for the Tech For Teaching Day 2019.

Model Expected Behaviours

“Teaching” by University of Wolverhampton on Flickr.

Be explicit about how you will use devices in the classroom. Explain if you will be using your own device to:

  • Track timing or refer to notes;
  • Check your instructional plan
  • Refer to a lesson plan;
  • Share examples of classroom activities through anonymized photos or videos;
  • Keep tabs on a family situation;

Be explicit about how students can interact with you with their devices. Many students record audio in class and this is a frequently occurring accommodation. You may choose to set parameters around this, stating something like:

“I feel comfortable with recording of my voice for study purposes, but not with recording video of classes. Please disclose to me if you are recording, either in person or via email before class.”

You might adapt this script to include your own comfort level on social media posts, or sharing of information.

Build a Classroom Contract Together

Classroom contracts are often collaboratively co-created guidelines about how learners and educators are expected to behave in class. They help the classroom contract agree on the right conditions for their own learning. Often, they look like a contract or pledge, and many educators ask students to sign them in smaller classrooms, signifying their commitment to these behaviours.

Consider incorporating device use into your classroom contract.

  • In the first or second class, bring out your classroom contract, or write one on the whiteboard.
  • Go over expectations for device use as set out by the organization. Display and read out to students the section on the “Use of Electronic Devices in Classrooms and Labs” in Conestoga’s Student Guide
  • Agree on the wording to add to the contract about device use.
  • With students, co-create expectations of appropriate use of devices in class. Write down suggestions that are appropriate and relevant.

Don’t assume any behaviours are common sense, as device access and use can vary across cultures, socio-economic statuses, and geographic locations. Students may offer suggestions like:

  • put phones on silent mode, placed face up on the desk;
  • quietly step out of the class to take important messages/calls;
  • offer each other quiet and respectful reminders of appropriate device use in case of distractions;
  • identification of appropriate times to use devices in class, like to research terms, refer to a digital text, or take notes.

Specify consequences of actions, such as being quietly reminded by peers or neighbours, or making note of distracting behaviours and following up after class.

Finally, give clear examples of what a safety issue or distraction looks like.  Be clear on how these will be responded to.

Post these co-created expectations online, and refer to them at the beginning of every class. This can be a useful reminder of the expectations for classroom conduct. 

When Teaching

  • Start everyone at a universal launchpad, like the Office 365 landing area, a shared folder, or the LMS app.  
  • Set out the expectation that learners will need to be flexible from the beginning. Try saying something like:

“We are going to be leveraging the devices you have brought with you.  Please know, your experience may be different that what you see me modelling. I will try to generalize my instructions.” 

  • Encourage device-specific partnering.  Allow students to sit next to a partner with the same or similar device, and encourage them to quietly help each other. 
  • Be clear about the challenge level of the learning task and encourage resiliency.

“In today’s task, we are going to ____________________. You may find this straightforward, you may find it challenging.  Take this at your own pace.  Remember, you can look for help from a neighbour, online at …., or from me if I am available.” 

  • Give instructions only to the point that you are comfortable with.  Encourage exploration and experimentation from that point. 
  • Pose a problem to solve.

“Using this tool, you’d like to create/build a… Where might you start? How far can you get?” 

  • Be prepared to admit when learners have exceeded your experience. Encourage them to look to online support resources for explicit guidance from this point. 

“I haven’t seen that before. Where could you look to help you troubleshoot through it?”

Manage Troubleshooting (to an Extent)

  • Encourage students to help each other and look online for help.
  • Encourage them to try again, from the beginning
  • Try refreshing the browser or using a different one.  
  • If a page won’t load, try using data or tethering to a mobile phone. 
  • Try another way – try it in the app instead of the browser. 
  • Try a workaround – if a file is too big to upload, store it in the OneDrive then share the link instead.   
  • If the bug seems extensive, try restarting the device
  • Worst case scenario: Learners can work together from one device or pop out to the Library Tech Bar for help. 

Dealing with Distractions

Proactively prepare students to manage their own learning and attention needs. Remind learners at the beginning of class that people will be using devices, and if they are unable to focus due to a nearby device, they may choose to relocate, or to quietly and respectfully ask that person to change their behaviours.

If a student is using a device and seems distracted or is distracting others, try proxemics. Walk nearer to the student while continuing your lecture or activity. You may find this encourages them to refocus.

If this doesn’t work, individually and quietly ask the student to refer to the co-created guidelines for device use (they might open the LMS on their device to do so). Use statements like “I’m noticing that other people seem distracted by something on your device. What would you propose to be a solution?” Allow for choice in the solution – the student might choose to move, eliminate the distraction, or another possibility.

If the behaviour continues, you may want to note the time(s) and send the student an email after class. Summarize their activity, your responses, and kindly invite an explanation. When replying, it is can be a best practice to be understanding, but clear that you will continue to monitor these behaviours.

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